Monday, October 20, 2014

Things I Could Teach My Son but That He'd Be Better Off Learning from His Dad

Moms struggle with their full mommy plates. We struggle with how much we do (getting kids dressed, combed, fed, clean-toothed, packing lunches, putting shoes on the correct foot - ours and our kids', telling the kids to not bite each other, and going to work) and then take on even more (taking on projects, buying presents for birthday parties, making doctor appointments, rescheduling doctor appointments, cleaning up, making dinner, working out, finding time to have a glass of wine and chat with our husbands... and friends... and mothers.) And those are just the physical responsibilities of a day without including the emotional are we doing it right, are we doing it well, are we doing it without causing too much permanent damage to our kids.

And then there are the posts telling me what else I should be doing, the lists: 46 Things Moms Should Be Awesome At, 38 Things Cool Moms Do, 18 Things A Mom Should Do to Avoid Being the Absolute Worst Parent Ever. I try to give these posts an honest try, after all, I like a good list, but instead I find myself wanting to shove these lists down someone's throat because I don't want to hear about the things I'm not doing but should be doing. I'm exhausted, remember?

The most recent to-do list I'm ruminating on is 15 Things a Mom Should Teach Her Son. Don't get me wrong, I agree with many of the items on the list (Teach him that the job of a stay-at-home mom is equally as hard as yours OR that a dutch oven is never funny. EVER.) but as I stare at the ceiling, I think I shouldn't be teaching this to my son. In the days of hunters and gatherers, boys went out with their fathers and learned about what it meant to be a man. Boys developed into men by watching the kind of men their fathers were (or uncles or family friends in the absence of a father). Boys didn't learn about those things from their moms because can I, a woman, really teach my boy child, how to be man. And would he really want to learn about a dutch oven from his mom? Doubtful. He's better off learning that from dad, a real man, the man I hope my son will become.

So with the help of Husband, I made my own list:

1. Nothing is more "manly" than a man that takes care of his family. Nothing. Period. Not what you buy, not what you wear, not what you drive, not where you go.  Taking care of others is hot. Your wife will think so and so will every other woman out there (but don't go talking to those women).
Be a good husband and a good father and you needn't worry about how else to be a man. It's already done.

2. Flush the toilet. No one needs to see your business. 

3. The best things in life aren't free, they require work. Love requires labor. Passion requires push. Even freedom requires struggle. Don't be afraid of work. Put in effort and do a job well - no matter what the job.

4. Choose your friends wisely. Friends are like tequila: either they'll turn out to be a lot of fun or they'll land you in a Mexican prison. So unless you want to end up peeing in a hole in a cement cell, choose wisely.

5. Make music a part of your life and you'll always have reason to dance and sing. Music brings happiness. How many sad people have you ever seen dancing and singing?
6. True friends don't care about what you can give them. Some people are only around when the fortune wheel is high and you have a lot to give but as soon as the wheel turns, so do they. These people aren't your friends. Find friends who will stand next to you at any turn the wheel takes. Do the very same with a partner. A girl who likes you won't expect much; that's when you know you can give her everything.

7. Put some thought into your first date. You don't have to spend a lot of money but effort goes a long way in love, way further than dollars.

8. Learn to cook for yourself... and that doesn't just mean grilling (although grilling is awesome). Boil some pasta, hard-boil an egg, bake a potato. Julienne a carrot. The kitchen is your friend too.
9. Lying isn't always bad. Don't lie to me or your mother but if you're sparing someone's feelings, lies aren't always the worst thing you could do. 

10. Shave over the sink. There will be less to clean up and you're mother will be happier for it.

11. The world is much more interesting if you believe in things that cannot be proven: love, God, Santa. Some things just require a leap of faith.
12. Success won't teach you as much as failure. Success is awesome. It makes you feel accomplished. But there is a lot to learn in failure. Failure teaches you where to improve, where to work harder, and how to avoid the same pitfalls. Failure teaches you how to really appreciate your success.

13. Lose with grace. And while your at it, win with grace too. Sore winners and sore losers both have their own nasty stench.

14. Compliment her shoes. It sounds silly but just do it. I promise.

15. Don't make big head decisions with your little head. There is no worse decision you could make and no decision that will haunt you longer.

16. First impressions matter. A lot. So if you wouldn't want to meet the future love of your life or your future boss, or your future father-in-law looking like that, change.
17. But, make sure you fall in love with someone who doesn't care what you look like. I know. I just said to care what you look like and now I'm telling you to find someone who doesn't care. Here's the thing: it's about you. YOU need to care what you look like, not her. The same goes for your apartment, your car, and the toilet seat. It's about the pride you take in yourself.

18. Don't stand there. Do something. Be the kind of man who helps instead of stands idly by doing nothing. That's the worst. Does your buddy need help with something? Help. Is someone getting bullied? Step in. Does someone need a lift somewhere? Offer them a ride. Be the kind of man that shows up, that people can count on.

19. If you're not sure - wash it in cold and don't dry it in the dryer. If you're not sure how long it has been in the fridge - air on the side of caution and throw it out. If you're not sure where you're going - Ask. For. Directions. I'm still working that one out. 

20. Don't use the phrase, "like a girl." That phrase is lame. So are people that use it to mean something inferior. And I promise you this - if you say this in front of your mother (or your sister) they're going to slap you "like a girl" and it will hurt. Because girls are strong.

21. And know that the saying "be a man" is just as stupid. You know who's a man? Me. Your dad. You know why? Because I know that "being a man" can be defined by lots of things by lots of people but the only definition that matters is your own. Be what you want.

22. Chivalry is not dead. Court her. Bring flowers. Or coffee. Write her a letter. Opening doors is always a good move. Share your umbrella. Give her your coat if she's cold. Walk her to her door. Compliment (see #14) Ask her to dance. Know how to dance. Pull out her chair. Offer her your seat. Call - especially if you said you would.

23. Know how to build a shed. Be handy. Know how to use a hammer. Own a ladder. Be resourceful. Don't worry, you're sister will also learn the same thing.

24. Don't be in a rush to get older. You will be an adult for far longer in life than you will be a kid. Enjoy the wonder. The only things waiting for you in adulthood are bills, payments, and to-do lists. I'd rather be playing tag.

25. The world is full of fools. Don't be one. Ask lots of questions and don't stop asking. Question everything. Don't just accept what other people tell you. Learn something from everyone but not everything from someone.  Accept other views but make your own.

26. Winning matters on scoreboards and record books but ask Derek Jeter if that's what he was thinking about when he was making his farewell speech after 20 seasons. Sure winning is great but playing hard, playing your best is everything. Give 100% and I promise you'll never regret it.
27. Nice guys don't finish last. Being kind and compassionate actually takes a good bit of strength. Learn to be that kind of strong. You don't need to be hard and ruthless in order to get ahead. You'll hear that kindness is weakness. You'll hear that nice guys finish last. It isn't true. Ask your mother if this nice guy finished last.

28. The biggest guy isn't necessarily the strongest. I've seen big men fold to much smaller men. The key is to play your own game and not someone else's game. We all have our strengths. Use what you have. 

29. Aim high: in life and in love. Have high expectations. Don't settle.

30. And finally... your mother is always right. Accept it. Don't fight it. Trust me, I've tried. It's a losing battle.

And we love you. 
& Husband

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Legacy I Want to Leave Behind

I'm fortunate to have both a daughter and a son. What this also means is that I also get to battle all kinds of dumb messages about gender roles and crappy societal ideas. The messages my son will grow up hearing one day to "be a man" or "act like a man" sicken me and I'll save that for next week's post. Today I want to talk about my daughter and the garbage that all of our girls are forced to stomach everyday starting at an age when they can't decipher what is truth and what is complete shit. This isn't a scare tactic or some made up ghost story, like all of those years people wasted, pretending Global Warming wasn't a real threat. This, like Global Warming, exists, and it's dangerous. So, whether you have a daughter or not is besides the point. This is important for all of us to know, so listen.

We are in jeopardy of creating a world full of girls that believe their only worth comes from pretty faces and skinny waists found somewhere in between glossy pages and the perfect selfies. 

At a very young age, girls are shown what "pretty" is in small, subtle ways. While I applaud Disney for making princesses of different ethnicities with some strong personality traits (Belle, an avid reader; Mulan, a brave warrior; Merida, an adventurous spirit) I have still yet to see a princess that is flat-chested or built with large hips. They may all be different in character but their common thread is that they're all super hot. (Hello, 16-year-old Ariel with sea shell boobies!) Even Husband has noticed the sexier cartoons when he recently asked me about an episode of the new My Little Pony. "Is it me, or are those ponies more sexualized than they used to be?" He was right, folks, the newer versions of this 80's remake are slimmer, taller, and more chiseled. And I'm talking about horses. My Little Pony, back in the day, actually looked like horses (crazy, I know) and now...? Their legs - taller and more toned, their faces - higher cheekbones, their necks - elongated. These ponies are, dare I say, sexier? A pony? Don't tell me you don't see a difference.
Is that pony making a sexy face?
But it isn't just cartoons. In real life, girls are shown that to be beautiful means to be airbrushed and painted. They will shop at stores where to be thin means to be a 000 - and no that wasn't a typo or an extra zero added to a James Bond film... it is now a real size according to J.Crew.

Pause. Deep breath.

Are you effing serious?!?! What in the hell is that? Technically, doesn't a zero on it's own mean nothing, so wouldn't 000 be even less than nothing. So what we're saying is that a person wearing a triple zero is wearing a size smaller than nothing? Like a negative? This is a thing now? An XXXS is a thing? I'm not sure about you but a size less than a real number sounds super unhealthy to me, but ok. Just wanted to make sure I had that straight, that size 0 girls are now also too big. Great. Welcome to a world where anything above 000 is large.

But here is where I want to stop pointing fingers at cartoons and chain stores and start taking some personal responsibility. Where do we, as women, fit into what our girls think about themselves? Do we create or add to some of the messages our girls hear?

I am a size 10-12 or in Europe a size 32 or in the alphabet an "L" - that stands for Large - and while I'm not afraid to admit it because those words don't bother me, I'd also have to admit that I've talked about my belly in front of my kid, heck I've written about it. In jest, yes, but does my kid know the difference; does the little girl standing behind me in the grocery store know the difference? Probably not since neither of them speak sarcasm either. So I have to ask: is that what I want them to think, that this beautiful stomach is a source of shame? That I'm not proud of everything this stomach can do, has done, and continues to do for me? That they shouldn't be proud of their perfect, little bellies? Is that the beauty legacy I'm leaving behind?

How we choose to think about ourselves is how we show younger girls to think about themselves.

Let's choose, then, to see ourselves pretty and glow at the capacity of our arms and talk about how they help us to carry children, swing across monkey bars, or help kick ass at volleyball instead of knocking how scrawny they are. And let's be proud of our powerful thighs that climb stairs, ride bikes, and anchor into a sand struggle of tug o' war. We could hate our teeth for being crooked or too pointy or not perfectly aligned or love them for being part of the smile that welcomes people into our presence.

Our bodies are much more than just aesthetically pleasing. They are incredible machines and not just fancy vehicles whose beauty is found in its parts. If we reflected on all our bodies can do and how our fingers interlock with others' fingers to hold the hands of our lovers or our babies and how our toes help us grip the ground when the floor is wet or how our feet are the oldest form of transportation -and if we remembered that our tongue with its 10,000 tastebuds let's us taste bacon or that our hair is an extension of our nervous system and can warn us of danger (hence the phrase the hairs on my neck stood up) we'd remember the one time that John Mayer had something non-douchey to say and we would agree. Yes, my body IS a wonderland. 

So here's the bottom line: we could put all of the blame on media or society for their lousy ideas of beauty but they only put on the table what we eat up. This means that we have to own some of the responsibility, we have to stop picking up the unhealthy crap they make so that they'll give us healthier solutions. Otherwise we relinquish our power and minimize ourselves to excuses: It's all their fault. There is nothing I can do. Media is everywhere. It's too powerful. 

But we, too, are powerful.
So are our bodies.

And that is the legacy I want to leave behind.

Inspired by Dove and #That'sWhatSheSaidLinkUp

Picture Credits:
Elise Dicharry - Magazine cover
miss_flynn - Old Version
Cecilia Teodorima Marquez - New Version

Monday, October 13, 2014

Catch up on the Last Few Weeks

Since I write for and contribute to other fabulous websites like Women Who live on Rocks and Expat Village, I don't always publish my newest posts here. Bu that doesn't mean you should have to miss out. 

Don't forget to check out some of them on these other great websites from the last few weeks: